Being Sherlock: Searching for Clues When Marketing a New Program

Being Sherlock: Searching for Clues When Marketing a New Program

By Allison Lundberg, Account Manager, Hospice Medical Director Certification Board

To me, marketing is like detective work. It takes a lot of trial, error, and data to answer your burning questions, but once you put together pieces of the puzzle, it becomes an extremely effective tool.

Three years ago, my association, the Hospice Medical Director Certification Board, was launched into the buzz that is the credentialing world. We had previously participated in a market research study to make sure the credential was necessary, effective, and contained a large universe of candidates. The study said “Yes! Let’s do this thing!” and our brains said “Ok, but how?”

So we started down a long journey of legal items, procedure writing, planning, volunteer determination and more. You know, the fun stuff... But when it came around to marketing the launch, we put on our Sherlock hats and the real detective work began!

1. Creating a Database

When you start up a new organization, you have a database of zero. Yikes. In order to build our database and not panic, we exhibited at large industry conferences, obtained names, and purchased lists that we would use in our marketing efforts. Through forums, events, and contacts, we also identified key players in the industry that would volunteer their time to be our voice and advocate for our certification. Sometimes your detective work is finding volunteers whom people trust in order to create that peer-to-peer marketing effect. I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t make a large purchase without consulting my friends or family first. I want to trust that I am making a good decision and am making it worth my while. So we found our trusty volunteers that opened our eyes to organizations, lists, and threads with which we should engage to help us. The more exposure you get, the more the communication web grows.

2. Identifying and Segmenting Your Audiences

After building our database, we identified two main target audiences: physicians and CEOs. At my organization, we have a demographics program that requires an individual to update their demographic information prior to making a purchase on our website. With this technology, we are able to demographically segment our lists to target physicians and CEOs to create a valuable message for each group. Physicians look to see how certification can benefit them, while CEOs look to see how certification can benefit their organization. Two different audiences have two different needs so we shoot for two different messages. Lack of segmentation causes someone like Petco to send you a promotion for dog beds when you don’t even own a pet. It wastes your time and they waste their resources. Segmenting your audiences makes for more effective marketing and allows you to focus your marketing dollars in the right place.

3. Determining Your Voice

So we created an audience, we knew how to segment them, but we didn’t know how to talk to them. Messages should be compelling, they should speak to the reader, be relatable, and establish trust. When we began our email campaign about our new certification program, we weren’t sure how to speak to them. Should our writing be catchy? Should it be passionate? Touching? Excited? Loud? Our email vendor provides a lot of data reports, which became clues in determining our voice.

After sending a few emails, we buckled down and looked at the data. In one of our well-performing emails, the data told us that nearly 58% of recipients opened the email on a mobile device, while only 18% opened it on a desktop. Since our physicians are mobile, our content needs to be quick, to the point, and mobile-friendly. This is a trend we have continued to see since we started in 2012.

We also performed some A/B testing to determine which messages are most effective. We wrote to the physician audience on similar topics with two different voices. One email was the flashy/catchy type, the “woo!” email to get people excited about learning and certifying their knowledge. The other email was touching, a remembrance of why they entered into the hospice field and how earning this certification will show their dedication to the field and to their patients. These emails were sent to the same audience a few weeks apart.

The “woo” email had a 37% open rate, while the touching email had a 55% open rate. Our physicians are passionate, humble workers, so the touching emails work better for them. Look at your email data to see what speaks to your audience. Being relatable creates trust. Make sure you establish a connection and create compelling content to really pull them in.

4. Choose Your Vehicles

I personally want an Audi A8. Whoops! Wrong vehicle. I’m talking marketing vehicles. Once you establish your organization’s voice, play with social media and see where they hang out to get their information. Through our detective work, we found that hospice physicians are on Twitter a lot, getting back to that quick, mobile content; so we focus our energies there. We continue to use data to dig up clues and find where they are seeking information. Emails are quick, easy, and effective, but what about videos, images, and personal mail. Emails can get lost, so sometimes snail mail is the way to go. Be sure to track the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns to help budget your marketing dollars more effectively in the future. Through trial and error, we have established a good mix of marketing vehicles and look to expand our plans in the coming years.

In summary, be a marketing detective. Starting a new program has so many unknowns and you can only be effective when you pay attention to what your audience and your data clues are telling you. Keep in mind that industries and people change, so your detective work is never done.

Marketing, my dear Watson.


Allison Lundberg is the account manager for the Hospice Medical Director Certification Board, and also works on AMC’s Catalyst Consulting team. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Photo Credit: "HOLMES!!..." by dynamosquito is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0